It’s a cold day in Buffalo, typical for this industrial city, which is dusted with a fine coat of snow. Traversing the numerous buildings and animal habitats at the Buffalo Zoo, but sporting warm and cheerful smiles, are Ashley Hager and Megan Hilsdorf, junior biochemistry majors at Keuka College.
Both put in 8-hour-a-day, 6-day work weeks for three weeks in January to conduct 140-hour, Field Period internships at the zoo. While Hager spent most of her time in the Reptile House, working in the Hellbendar (salamander) acquatics lab, Hilsdorf worked with primates, birds and other animals in the M&T Rainforest Falls exhibit. Both were exposed to sections of the zoo the public never sees, such as where specialized meals are prepared for each exhibit, animals receive any needed veterinary care, and babies are are kept until they are old enough to venture out into the display habitats.
Thanks to a relative of Hilsdorf’s who offered use of his Buffalo apartment for three weeks when he wasn’t going to be there, both girls were able to stay in the city and commute to the zoo each day for the internship, which is an annual part of every Keuka student’s graduation requirements.
“They’re so short-staffed, and they told us we’ve been a big help,” said Hager.
Where can a Keuka degree take you? This is the third in a series of snapshot profiles on members of Keuka’s Class of 2012.
Nicole Groth ’12 graduated cum laude with a degree in visual and verbal art and conducted three Keuka Field Period internships in Cornelius, N.C., where she is now living and working.
Her first Field Period internship, in January 2010, was at the Cornelius, N.C. animal shelter. Groth’s own rescue dog, Jazi, adopted when she was a senior in high school, melted her heart for other animals in the same plight, so the Field Period was a natural fit for her passion. Over spring break in her senior year of college, she returned to the North Carolina facility and shot black and white film photographs of the shelter dogs playing before breakfast. The images ultimately became part of her senior art project, a life-size metal cage with black and white photos of shelter dogs on the inside and full-color paintings of dogs rescued and adopted into homes on the outside.
While she continues to volunteer Sunday mornings feeding and walking the animals, marketing the facility, and attending adoption events, the two internships she conducted in summer 2011 and January 2012 at the nearby Cornelius Arts Center, turned into paid positions. The arts building is home to the non-profit Community Arts Project, where Groth now teaches art classes, workshops, classes for adults, and summer camp courses.
In addition, Groth also works as a recreations program assistant for the Town of Cornelius Parks, Arts, Recreation and Culture department, housed in the same building. Work there includes registering students for classes, completing reports, and running the front desk.
In the meantime, she has applied to show her artwork next spring in the Cornelius Arts Center Gallery, which attracts many local artists. She has also applied for entry to an October arts festival.
Amidst starting a new chapter of life, Groth said she misses the Keuka campus, where among her many learning experiences were responsibilities as a resident assistant.
“I have used the skills I gained through those [R.A.] experiences so much since graduation, and am grateful for those opportunities,” she said.
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